Now, Some Inkjet Offerings for the 'Smaller Guys'
This was another great year for GRAPH EXPO in Chicago. Although the hype was low key, there were many new inkjet technologies, which are filling gaps that our market needed.
Mid-range cutsheet inkjet is one of them. There was a production gap in the inkjet market affecting printers who do not have the high volumes needed for continuous-feed printing and, thus, are finding it hard to justify moving into inkjet. Although many printers see the need to move to inkjet (just to stay technically competitive,) it was cost-prohibitive to make the leap. There are now new options filling this gap.
Although you didn’t see one running on the GRAPH EXPO floor, the new four-color Canon Océ VarioPrint i300 duplex pigment inkjet printer is quite interesting. I did have the opportunity to see this run first-hand recently at Canon Expo in New York and was pleased with the print quality seen on their predesigned artwork. Specified at running at 3,800 B3 sized sheets an hour, it seems to fill the mid-range production gap.
Another entry into this area was Xerox. They unveiled their “roll-to-cutsheet” inkjet option for the mid-range volume printer. Named the Rialto 900, this four-color, narrow web pigment press runs maximum 9.4˝-wide rolls at 157 fpm, converting to sheets with an integrated cutter and stacker. The print samples shown at GRAPH EXPO provided good inkjet print quality.
However, what impressed me the most is that both of these technologies have addressed “inkjet-jet out” issues with missing jet detection. Canon has integrated it as a standard feature and Xerox is an option, but both have addressed this ongoing issue, which is inherent with inkjet. Clogged print head nozzles or so-called “missing/deviated jets” are seen as a print voids. Depending on the image type, ink combination, jet location and paper type, they can be more or less visually distractive. There are many reasons why jet outs happen, and the key is catching them early to ensure quality prints. Although each of these two presses handles the print evaluation and jet recovery differently during production, this is a big leap in addressing jetting issues.
For those in the transactional, direct mail, catalog and book markets wishing to get into inkjet printing, but who lack large volumes needed for high-speed web, you now have some new options in making the aqueous inkjet plunge.
And some advice from the Genie...
As always, when assessing print quality on any inkjet equipment, do you homework and provide many levels of print coverage and quality tests to verify that a piece of equipment is right for your image and workflow needs. When you start looking and evaluating any inkjet equipment, skip the sales folks (no offense to salespeople), but spend your investigative time with the equipment manufacturer’s technical and machine operators during your test runs and print quality evaluations.
These technical people are better suited to helping you understand the machine and its capabilities without pressure or pitches. They can provide the details of the equipment, not box stats. And remember to visit other printers who have inkjet equipment. You will be surprised by just how open and honest those who have already taken the inkjet plunge are. Once you have narrowed your search, then inkjet sales folks are fantastic with helping you with the ROI, production matrix and pricing.
Ask the same questions over and over again to everyone in the process to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Remember, understanding the details of the technology will allow you to better understand how inkjet will complement your current workflow.
As the InkJet Genie says, “if you understand the process, you can manipulate it."